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Do NOT give your doctor your SSN unless you absolutely have to

Do NOT give your doctor your SSN unless you absolutely have to

For those familiar with the medical world, then you'll know that just about every part of it expects patients to hand out their Social Security number like a business card. In the wake of a massive healthcare breach, many consumers are rethinking the trust that they put in healthcare providers to keep their information secure.

While you may think that every box in the form that you fill out when you visit a doctor or hospital needs to be filled, the reality is quite different. When it comes to your Social Security number, most doctors don't even need it.

Consumer Reports medical adviser Orly Avitzur told the magazine, "There’s really no reason to give your doctor or hospital your Social Security number. Insurers have your unique subscriber number and that’s what we use to submit claims." Avitzur stopped taking his patients' Social Security numbers three years ago.

So you can avoid giving a doctor your Social Security number, but you can't get out of handing your precious number over to an insurer. All insurers require your Social Security number. There's no two ways around it. But the fact that your insurer has your SSN means that doctors don't need it.

Next page: How to keep your SSN secure.
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